Wednesday, August 9, 2017

No Bread in the House of Bread

Devotion: Ruth 1:1-2

This week we begin a new series in the book of Ruth. One of two books in the Bible to be named for women, the book of Ruth follows the story of a family and focuses on the life of two women, namely, Naomi and Ruth. This week we are going to begin by meeting Naomi and her family.
"In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there." -Ruth 1:1-2 ESV
Elimelech was from Bethlehem a name that means, 'House of Bread,' in Hebrew. So the story of this family begins with a bitter irony. There is no bread in the house of bread. We are further told that this story takes place during the time of the judges and from data later in the book we can determine that it happened closer to that end of those days (a period of over 200 years). Three points can be drawn from these two pieces of information. First, the famine that hit Elimelech and his family led them to flee to a foreign land (Moab). This move is reminiscent of Jacob and his sons fleeing to Egypt during an earlier famine (see Genesis 43-46). We will learn next week that fleeing to a foreign land can often bring tragedy--but in the case of Ruth we will see throughout the book, it can also bring joy and relief. Moab is a curious choice for the family as they are among the most hated of Israel's enemies at the time (perhaps second to the Philistines), but given Bethlehem's location, it would have been the closest land to flee to for the family.
Second, we need to notice that the famine did not impact a close neighbor of Israel. For whatever reason, the famine only impacted Israel. From the Scriptures we know that Israel was dependent on rain for its agriculture (see Deuteronomy 11:10-17) and a lack of rain (the likely root cause of famine, but locusts are also possible) would signify that Israel had broken faith her God. The family's flight to the foreign land also shows that this particular family found it easier to depend on a foreign nation rather than seek the Lord through repentance. This pattern will be repeated in national Israel under various kings and would eventually lead to the downfall of both northern and southern kingdoms. When in trouble, we go looking for someone to help or perhaps somewhere to escape. The alternative, though difficult, is to continue in the difficult circumstance seeking the Lord's guidance, help and relief. This is not the course of Elimelech's family and tragedy will soon follow.
Third and finally, again like Jacob and his family, Elimelech's family settles down in the foreign land. We do not know for how long, but the text strongly implies that they made a new home in the foreign land rather than a brief stint as refugees who returned to the land God had given them once the famine was over. It is this final piece that puts everything that follows into perspective.
So what do we take away from all this. Again, three points:
  1. In times of need, we need to return to the Lord. The Lord is the one who gave the rains and caused the crops to grow and led to the people having bread. If there is not bread in the house of bread, go back to the source. We should not be surprised that some of our difficulties and troubles are caused by sin. When we have a rift in our relationship with God it can lead us into pain and suffering. To be sure, following God can do the same thing. The whole point is that pain, sorrow and suffering need to drive again and again into the arms of our loving Savior. If we flee God, the intent is lost.
  2. Be careful of relying on the wrong kind of help. To be sure, there was bread in Moab, but is that the bread Elimelech and his family needed? When we find our own solutions rather than turning to the Lord in prayer for Him to guide us we can find resolution, but it rarely is satisfying for long and can often lead to unintended consequences. Grace can make even those unintended consequences work together for the glory of God and our good, but how much more if we seek the Lord's will first.
  3. Pray for refugees around the world. People who are necessarily displaced from their homes and must flee famine, persecution and/or war should have our deep compassion. Elimelech fled famine and for that he is worthy of compassion. The disconnect was settling down in Moab and not returning when the famine was over. Even Jesus' family fled the wrath of Herod for a time, but they returned to Israel when Herod died (see Matthew 2:13-15). We need to support refugees in their time of need, but also support them returning home (making that possible is a good prayer to the Lord) when the time is right.
We will meet up with the family next week.

News for You:

Men's Shootout, Sunday August 20 1-4 p.m.
The men of the church are invited out for an afternoon at the range (Riverside Sportman's Club). Come for some fellowship and bring a friend.

CPC at the Okanogan County Fair, September 7 – Sept 10
This year CPC will have a booth at the Okanogan County Fair.  This is an opportunity for our church family to be a sign of God’s Love, a source of Joy and a beacon of Hope to those who do not yet know Jesus.  Two volunteers (or a family) are needed for each 4 hour shift.  There will be a signup sheet in the Fellowship Hall after Worship Service this morning.  Be sure to include your T-shirt size on the signup sheet.  More details to come.

Adam's Road Ministry Event, September 14, 7 p.m.
The musical group Adam's Road  will be at CPC soon. This group will be sharing the gospel in both testimony and music and should not be missed. Again, come out and bring some friends. The event is free (though a love offering will be taken) and everyone attending gets a free CD.

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